Feeds

New Horizons off to Pluto

Successful launch for NASA mission

Remote control for virtualized desktops

New Horizons blasts off. Photo: NASANASA's New Horizons' mission to Pluto blasted off yesterday from Cape Canaveral - the first step in a 10-year, one-way trip.

According to the NASA press release, the Atlas V rocket carrying the vehicle lifted off at 14:00 EST. It separated from the solid fuel "kick motor" a tad under 45 minutes later. Five minutes after that, radio signals from New Horizons confirmed that all was well.

Dr Colleen Hartman, deputy associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, enthused: "Today, NASA began an unprecedented journey of exploration to the ninth planet in the solar system. Right now, what we know about Pluto could be written on the back of a postage stamp. After this mission, we'll be able to fill textbooks with new information."

Dr. Alan Stern, New Horizons' principal investigator, indulged in a bit of flag-waving with: "The United States of America has just made history by launching the first spacecraft to explore Pluto and the Kuiper Belt beyond. No other nation has this capability. This is the kind of exploration that forefathers, like Lewis and Clark 200 years ago this year, made a trademark of our nation."

There's still a long way to go, though. The NASA blurb explains:

"The 1,054-pound, piano-sized spacecraft is the fastest ever launched, speeding away from Earth at approximately 36,000 miles per hour, on a trajectory that will take it more than three billion miles toward its primary science target. New Horizons will zip past Jupiter for a gravity assist and science studies in February 2007, and conduct the first close-up, in-depth study of Pluto and its moons in summer 2015. As part of a potential extended mission, the spacecraft would then examine one or more additional objects in the Kuiper Belt - the region of ancient, icy, rocky bodies (including Pluto) far beyond Neptune's orbit."

New Horizons packs, as we previously reported, "imaging infrared and ultraviolet spectrometers, a multi-color camera, a long-range telescopic camera, two particle spectrometers, a space-dust detector and a radio science experiment".

The vehicle will spend most of its jaunt in hibernation mode, sending out a weekly beacon signal to report on status. Once a year, scientists will perform a health check to monitor "critical systems, calibrate instruments and perform course corrections, if necessary". New Horizons gets its juice from "a single radioisotope thermoelectric generator" and consumes less than 200 watts.

Once at Pluto, New Horizons will "characterize the global geology and geomorphology of Pluto and Charon [Pluto's moon], map their surface compositions and temperatures, and examine Pluto's atmospheric composition and structure". ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
MEN: For pity's sake SLEEP with LOTS of WOMEN - and avoid Prostate Cancer
And, um, don't sleep with other men. If that's what worries you
Voyager 1 now EIGHTEEN LIGHT HOURS from home
Almost 20 BEEELION kilometres from Sol
HUGE SHARK as big as a WWII SUBMARINE died out, allowing whales to exist
Who'd win a fight: Megalodon or a German battleship?
Jim Beam me up, Scotty! WHISKY from SPAAACE returns to Earth
They're insured for $1m, before you thirsty folks make plans
ROGUE SAIL BOAT blocks SPACE STATION PODULE blastoff
Er, we think our ISS launch beats your fishing expedition
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army
Railguns for 'Future fighting vehicle'
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.